“What do you see, Mom?” my daughter asked, holding up a pen and ink drawing in a book of optical illusions. I’d seen this picture before. If you look at it one way, you’re absolutely sure that you’re seeing a beautiful young woman staring into a mirror. Look again and all you can find is an old crone gazing off into the distance. Even when you know the trick, it’s hard to shift your perception once you “lock in” on the image. You see what you see.
I’ve been especially keyed in to the importance of perspective lately. Recently, I lost my job of more than 20 years. On paper that looks terrible, and in many ways it was, but the reality is more complicated. As comfortable as my ad agency position was, the fact is, I was long overdue for a change. Even before the agency closed, I kept a wish list of new opportunities. But daydreaming about doing something new and being dropped headfirst into a challenging new reality are two very different things. As motivated as I was, I found out fast that there is nothing easy about starting over mid-career.
So here’s what I’m learning – maybe “easy” isn’t the goal. Maybe the secret to achieving something new is outlasting the “hard” part of getting there.
This idea is summarized beautifully in a TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth (you can watch it here: http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit?language=en#t-161060 ). She is a pioneer in the study of grit. After several years as a teacher, Dr. Duckworth set out to understand why some of her “smartest” students underachieved and why other, less gifted, students excelled. If having a high I.Q. wasn’t the secret to success, what was? The defining trait that emerged was grit – the ability to persevere towards a goal over the long haul.
As I work towards my ambitious new goals, Dr. Duckworth’s findings inspire me. For that reason, I was especially excited to hear one of her researchers, David Meketon, talk about “Grit: Passion and Perseverance for Long Term Goals” at my daughters’ school. While the focus was on helping students perform better, I was hoping to hear something that would help motivate me through the hard process of starting over. I wasn’t disappointed.
Early in his talk, Mr. Meketon emphasized that there is one important word to add to your child’s (and your!) vocabulary. That word is “yet.”
Think about the shift in perspective these three letters can bring. It’s the difference between “I’m not good at math,” and “I’m not good at math yet.” Between “I’m not at a healthy weight” and “I’m not at a healthy weight yet.” Between “I don’t know how to code” and “I don’t know how to code yet.”
As I launch headfirst into 2015, I’m keeping these three perspective-shifting letters front-of-mind. I lost a great career that I had for 27 years. But I’m not letting this setback derail me. I have big plans for the future. And goals that I haven’t reached. Yet.
Patty Cara is the author of the upcoming TENideas: The Further Creative Adventures of a Former Creative Director and the creator of the iPhone productivity app TENideas. Organize and act on your own best ideas with TENideas, the iPhone app that helps you power your possibilities. Find it on the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tenideas/id775884806?mt=8. Or learn more at http://tenideas.co.